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Schools

MSAD No. 75 Foundations Informational Newsletter
From the Desk of Mike Wilhelm, Superintendent 729-9961               January 2006

Recently, the Harpswell Selectmen received a petition presented by some of its townspeople asking that the Town leave M.S.A.D. No. 75. Several questions have been raised by School District community members regarding the process and the impact on Harpswell and the School District should the withdrawal process go forward. On January 28, Harpswell will vote to decide whether it will form a committee to enter negotiations with M.S.A.D. No. 75 to determine the terms for withdrawal. A majority vote is required to pass. Should it pass, once the terms are agreed to by the Town’s committee and the School District, a final vote will be held in Harpswell to decide if the Town wishes to leave the District. That vote requires a 2/3 majority to pass. This communication seeks to identify and answer some of the most substantive questions we are being asked. Please feel free to contact me if you have additional questions about this process.

What does the withdrawal process entail?

A document from the State Department of Education can be found on the District website (www.link75.org) which outlines both the statutory process and the required elements of the withdrawal agreement.

Why do the petitioners want Harpswell to withdraw from the District?

The petitioners believe that Harpswell’s local cost per student is disproportionately and unfairly large when compared to the cost per pupil borne by the other three District towns. Because Harpswell’s mill rate for education is below the State threshold to generate State subsidy, Harpswell’s entire share of the District budget (except for $189,936 in special education subsidy and $115,521 in other revenues) is provided by Harpswell’s property taxes. Harpswell’s share ($7,241,489) of the total District budget ($33,819,170) is 21.4%. It raises $6,936,032 of its share through local property taxes to educate 583.5 students which means that the Town puts $11,884 behind each Harpswell student. The other towns in the District generate State subsidy because their education mill rate is above the State 8.26 mill threshold; therefore, the amount needed to be raised by property taxes is less.

Town

Local
Contribution

Total Contribution
Local + Subsidy

# of
Students

Cost/Student
from Local $$

Total
Cost/Student

Bowdon

$1,873,897

$ 5,427,732

566

$ 3,311

$ 9,590

Bowdoinham

$1,837,624

$ 4,428,871

456

$ 4,029

$ 9,712

Harpswell

$6,936,032

$ 7,125,968

583.5

$11,884

$12,212

Topsham

$7,077,870

$16,072,499

1,511.5

$ 4,683

$10,633

 

Do the petitioners want Harpswell to withdraw for educational reasons?

No. They have specifically stated they are satisfied with the education their children receive from the District.

Has a study been done to evaluate the financial and educational impact on Harpswell and the School District should the withdrawal occur?

No. Information has been provided the residents of Harpswell with preliminary financial data for Harpswell regarding its potential educational costs should it leave the District. Some of the financial information would only be available once the withdrawal terms are settled. There has been no comprehensive study of the financial implications for District taxpayers, or of the possible impact on the education of District students, including Harpswell’s students.

Would the process for developing the withdrawal agreement serve as a study?

The elements of the withdrawal agreement as specified by Law ask the withdrawing town to define how it will educate its children and specify what commitments to the District need to be negotiated. The agreement terms do not ask for a cost/benefit analysis or an educational analysis of the effect of withdrawal on the District.

Does the Law require that the vote to develop the withdrawal agreement be held within a specific time frame? There is no mention of a time frame for this first vote in the Title 20 (education) statutes that define the process.

Beyond the potential savings for Harpswell presented by the Selectmen, what are the other possible financial implications for the Harpswell if it withdraws?

The withdrawal agreement must, by Law, address financial commitments arising from outstanding bonds, notes and contractual obligations that extend beyond the date of withdrawal. The School District has the following commitments of which Harpswell would be expected to bear a share.

Category

Amount Outstanding

Bonds

$28,928,770

Capital Leases

114,533

Operating Leases

300.324

Teacher summer salaries

2,5 17,728

Total

$31,861,355

 

The method of sharing costs while Harpswell is part of the District is the local cost sharing formula wherein Harpswell’s share this fiscal year is 37.01%. Specific amounts that would be due from Harpswell upon withdrawal would be determined as part of the withdrawal agreement.

What are the possible financial implications for the rest of the District?

No comprehensive review of financial implications has been done at this point. Preliminary data suggests that the District may have to look to the other three towns for as much as $940,000, since the departure of Harpswell will result in the loss of revenue to the District.

What assurances do the citizens of Harpswell have that their children would be allowed to continue to attend Mt. Ararat Middle School and High School should the Town withdraw?

The first year after withdrawal, the Law requires that students may attend the school they would have attended had the withdrawal not taken place. A contract between M.S.A.D. No. 75 and Harpswell to tuition students to M.S.A.D. No. 75 beyond that first year could be part of the withdrawal terms. It would require the approval of both legislative bodies. Thus, a favorable vote of the citizens of Harpswell and of the remaining towns is required.

What is the percentage of property taxes that are dedicated toward education in each district town? (Most recent tax year data available from district towns)

Town

Tax Year

Total Mill Rate

% of Mill Rate for Education

Bowdoin

1/1/05 –

12/31/05

19.50

83.72%

Bowdoinham

7/1/05 –

6/30/06

12.40

5 1.84%

Harpswell

1/1/05 –

12/31/05

5.75

83.48%

Topsham

7/1/05 –

6/30/06

22.35

62.00%

 

What is the tax burden per home for education in SAD 75 member towns? (Most recent tax bill from each town and State home price data)

Town

Local Mills
For education

Median Home Price
(2004)

Ed Tax Bill
(Median Price)

Ed Tax Bill
 ($480,000 Home)

Bowdoin

16.33

$185,600

$3,030

$7.836

Bowdoinham

6.43

$165,000

$1,061

$3,086

Harpswell

4.80

$480,000

$2,304

$2,304

Topsham

13.86

$189.500

$2,625

$6,651

 

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Last edited on 01/07/2010